I have supervised four successful master student theses in Sociology this year. I’ve also been co-lecturing in the course ‘Technology, Policy and Society’ to third year bachelor students in Public Administration, and in Management of International Social Challenges, at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
During my lectures I have been focusing on the organizational dynamics of the development and implementation of technological innovations in the public domain. My primary focus is on infrastructures, both in analogue as well as digital forms, conceptualized as relations in practice.
A particularly facinating paper in this regard is Leigh Star’s and Karin Ruhleder’s 1996 paper Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure: Design and Access for Large Information Spaces. In this paper the authors highlight several dimensions of infrastructures from an standpoint rooted in ecological thinking. They also use Geoffrey Bowker et al.’s concept of infrastructural inversion to open up the black box of infrastructures in our daily lives.
What students find particularly interesting is to think creatively and interactively about what kinds of infrastructures they encounter in their daily lives, and how technologies are embedded in those infrastructures. This approach of going beyond the reductionist capitalist emphasis on the consumption of ‘apps’ makes technologies much more interesting to students, who in their personal and professional lives will definitely encounter and build on infrastructures of many kinds.
For this reason I have also touched on communication theory as significant for how to negotiate infrastructural transparency and opaqueness for different communities of practice. This includes discussing the framing power of technologies as forces of inclusion or exclusion (the shadow side of innovation); and what is distinctly ‘forgotten’, e.g. organized away, by the design and implementation of infrastructures.